Courtesy of Kaged Muscle

You’ve got a little problem (emphasis on little): You’re looking to build muscle – lots of muscle. You’re training like a beast and eating like one, yet you’re finding that the protein shakes, creatine and nitric oxide boosters you’re taking around workouts, while helpful, aren’t quite delivering the mass you were hoping for. What you need to do, then, is step up your supplement plan.

We know why you’ve neglected to step it up – with so many different supplements on the market today, you don’t know what to take, when to take it or how much of it to take. Well, leave the planning to us. Here, we give you a supplement plan for gaining mass that starts simple and progresses steadily, brining you to a hardcore mass supplement program while building big time muscle along the way.

The plan starts out with the basics, then progresses to a new level. If you follow the plan as outlined and adhere to a rigorous workout regimen, you can expect to add a solid 15-20 pounds of quality muscle over the course of the next year.  If that’s not a solution to your little problem, we don’t know what is.

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Cover your bases from the beginning by taking the elemental mass-gaining supplements that have proved effective by both researchers and top-level bodybuilders alike.


It gets no simpler than starting out

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your supplement plan with whey protein, the golden boy of protein powders. Research shows that this fast-digesting protein rich in branched-chain amino acids boosts muscle growth, especially when used around workouts. It also contains peptides that increase blood flow to the muscles. When you take whey before workouts, it helps deliver more oxygen, more nutrients and more anabolic hormones to your muscles, which provides you with more energy during workouts, an enhanced muscle pump and better muscle recovery and growth after training.

Mass Prescription: Take 20 grams of whey protein (mixed in water) within 30 minutes before each workout and another 40 g within 30 minutes after working out.


This combination of zinc and magnesium aspartate plus vitamin B6 can help boost testosterone and insulinlike growth factor-I levels, while blunting levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol, all of which support muscle growth and strength gains. Numerous studies have shown that both zinc and magnesium achieve those goals for athletes. And how can simple minerals work in this manner? Because hard training depletes zinc and magnesium, so supplementing with this precise combination will bring levels back up for optimal gains.

Mass Prescription: Choose a ZMA product that provides about 30 milligrams of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium and about 10.5 mg of vitamin B6 take it 30-60 minutes before bedtime without any food or calcium (dairy) — this will enhance its uptake and utilization and give you better quality sleep for optimal recovery.

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Made from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine, creatine is the proven thoroughbred of bodybuilding supplements. Hundreds of studies support its effectiveness, with reports of gains in strength of over 10% and gains in muscle over 10 pounds.

Mass Prescription: Take 2-5 g of creatine in the form of creatine monohydrate, creatine malate, creatine ethyl ester or creatine alpha-ketoglutarate within 30 minutes before workouts, and take another 2-5 g within 30 minutes after training.


Once you’ve created a solid supplement foundation with whey, ZMA and creatine, it’s time to step up your supplement plan by progressively adding the following three supplements to supercharge the benefits of the first three.


Whey makes up just 20%

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of the protein in milk, while casein makes up the remaining 80%. The latter, however, has always been considered inferior to whey, which is mostly due to its slow rate of digestion. This factor makes it valuable as a pre-bedtime snack to prevent muscle breakdown during sleep, but casein has long been avoided by bodybuilders around workout time. However, that’s all changed, thanks to new research. Now we know that when it’s taken after workouts, casein boosts muscle protein synthesis similar to whey. Research even shows that when trained lifters replace some of the whey in their postworkout shake with casein, they gain significantly more muscle mass than those not adding casein to whey.

Mass Prescription: After workouts, supercharge your postworkout whey shake by replacing 10-20 g of whey with casein in the form of micellar casein, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate or potassium caseinate.

*Strong Suit: Progressively add another 20- to 40-g dose of whey as soon as you wake in the morning.

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Branched-chain amino acids

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— leucine, isoleucine and valine — are hands down the most critical amino acids for repairing and building muscle. They stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which leads to muscle growth, and they also blunt the catabolic hormone cortisol. Taking BCAAs before workouts is important because muscles use these aminos for fuel, helping to prevent fatigue during workouts. And although whey is rich in BCAAs, boosting your postworkout whey shake with extra BCAAs will give you additional gains in both strength and muscle mass. In fact, preliminary research from our own Weider Research Group shows that trained lifters taking BCAAs around workout time experienced significantly greater gains in muscle mass and strength as compared to those taking a placebo.

Mass Prescription: Take 5 g of BCAAs with your breakfast, preworkout and postworkout shakes. Look for BCAA products that provide leucine at a ratio of 2:1 per dose of isoleucine and valine. For example, a 5-g dose of BCAAs should provide 2.5 g of leucine, 1.25 g of isoleucine and 1.25 g of valine.


Nitric oxide is a ubiquitous molecule, meaning it’s found throughout the body and is involved in multiple processes — namely the dilation of blood vessels, wherein they become wider in diameter, allowing more blood flow to your muscles to deliver more oxygen, nutrients and anabolic hormones. Because NO works through a different mechanism than whey peptides to increase blood flow, taking NO boosters has an additive effect that leads to even greater energy during workouts, a bigger muscle pump and even better muscle recovery and growth after training. NO will also boost the benefits of a ZMA supplement, as NO works to free up zinc in the body so that it can perform its work. Although some bodybuilders think NO boosters actually provide NO, they in fact supply NO precursors, such as the amino acids arginine and citrulline, as well as ingredients that help convert these aminos into NO, such as Pycnogenol.

Mass Prescription: Take an NO booster that provides 3-5 g of arginine in the form of L-arginine, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, arginine ethyl ester or arginine malate in the morning before breakfast, about 30-60 minutes before workouts and 30-60 minutes before bedtime.

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Once you’ve stepped up your supplement regimen, it’s time to take it to the next level with these three hardcore mass and strength supplements that will keep your gains coming by not only providing their own unique benefits, but by enhancing the benefits of the six supplements you’re already taking.


This is one of our favorite preworkout

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supplements, and not just because of the quick pick-me-up caffeine supplies, but because numerous research studies show that it enhances workouts. Caffeine provides the needed drive and energy for high-intensity training, which will further boost the energy aid you’re getting from whey, BCAAs and NO boosters. Caffeine has also been shown to immediately increase muscle strength, which will further enhance the strength gains you’ll experience from creatine. Moreover, caffeine blunts muscle pain during workouts so that you can take your training to failure, and beyond, for maximum gains in muscle size.

Mass Prescription: Take 200-400 mg of caffeine in the form of a supplement about an hour before workouts. FLEX recommends a supplement rather than coffee because the caffeine content of coffee can vary widely. Also, studies tend to show that coffee doesn’t enhance performance as well as caffeine supplements.

*Strong Suit: Add a 20- to 40-g casein shake to your diet (be sure to use a casein protein product that contains micellar casein), drinking it immediately before bedtime every night. Casein is a slow-burning protein that will help stave off the breakdown of muscle that occurs while you sleep.


Vitargo is a patented carbohydrate supplement supported by ample clinical research showing that it moves through the stomach more than twice as fast as typical sugars, such as those found in sports drinks. This means it gets into your bloodstream much faster than any other carb, resulting in an incredible spike in the anabolic hormone insulin, which will help deliver those carbs (as well as the amino acids and creatine in your postworkout shake) into your muscle fibers. The new form of Vitargo, called Vitargo S2, mixes better into fluids than the older version of Vitargo.

Mass Prescription: Combine 70g of Vitargo S2 with your postworkout shake.

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This amino acid gets combined

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with the amino acid histidine in the body to form carnosine. Muscles with higher levels of carnosine have greater strength and endurance, as carnosine increases the muscle’s ability to contract with more force and to do so for longer without fatiguing. Studies confirm that athletes taking beta-alanine experience increased muscle strength and endurance. Research also shows that beta-alanine enhances creatine’s ability to stimulate muscle growth, as trained lifters taking beta-alanine plus creatine gained significantly more muscle mass than those taking just creatine.

Mass Prescription: Take 1 g of beta-alanine with your preworkout and postworkout shakes.


Once you’ve taken your supplement plan to the next level, it’s time to take it over the top with these final three supplements that will ramp up testosterone levels and further boost your muscle mass and strength gains.


This supplement can enhance muscle growth through a number of mechanisms, all of which are supported by clinical research. For starters, carnitine increases blood flow to muscles, which means it further boosts the effects provided by NO boosters and whey protein. In addition, carnitine increases testosterone levels after workouts and the amount of testosterone receptors inside muscle cells (known as androgen receptors), which allows more testosterone to stimulate further muscle growth.

Mass Prescription: Take 1-1.5 g of carnitine in the form of L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine or L-carnitine-L-tartrate with breakfast, preworkout shakes, postworkout shakes and nighttime meals.

*Strong Suit: In month 10, increase your beta-alanine dose to 2 g with your preworkout and postworkout shakes.

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Also known as trimethylglycine, this metabolite of choline can lead to even higher levels of creatine because it helps the body to produce its own creatine. Recent research showed that athletes taking betaine experienced 25% greater gains in muscle strength than those taking a placebo. This means that betaine further enhances the strength gains from creatine and beta-alanine. Betaine also enhances joint recovery, which can help you maintain training intensity and avoid injury.

Mass Prescription: Take 1,250 mg of betaine twice a day with meals.

*Strong Suit: Increase carnitine dosages this month to 2-3 g with breakfast, preworkout shakes, postworkout shakes and nighttime meals.

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This active ingredient from the herb Coleus forskohlii works to boost testosterone levels via activation of the enzyme adenylate cyclase, which ramps up testosterone production by the testes. Research shows that young males taking forskolin for 12 weeks experienced an increase in the amount of free testosterone, the active form of testosterone that provides anabolic properties upon binding to its receptor in muscle cells. Therefore, forskolin works synergistically with carnitine to kick your body into an even higher anabolic state.

Mass Prescription: Look for a Coleus forskohlii supplement that’s standardized to provide 20-50 mg of forskolin and take it two or three times per day on an empty stomach.

*Strong Suit: This month, increase BCAA dosages to 10 g taken with breakfast, preworkout shakes and postworkout shakes.